Live-blogging the Québec debates: Charest v. Legault

I’ll be live-blogging tonight’s hourlong debate — the second in a series of three one-on-one debates — between Québec premier Jean Charest, the leader of the centrist, federalist Parti libéral du Québec (Liberal Party, or PLQ) and François Legault, leader of the newly formed, sort-of maybe center-right Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ).

Sunday night featured a four-way debate and last night featured a raucous one-on-one between Charest and Pauline Marois, the leader of the leftist, sovereigntist Parti québécois (PQ).  Tomorrow’s final debate will feature Marois and Legault, and Wednesday will bring showcase Marois and Legault.

Given Charest’s feisty, aggressive tone against Marois last night, I expect to see the same against Legault, who himself is a former PQ minister.  Legault left the PQ to form the CAQ late last year, and I would expect Charest to make the argument that Legault is a closet sovereigntist and that the CAQ has been too vague about its plans for government.  I expect you’ll also see Charest attack Legault for cuts made to Québec’s health care system — Legault once served as minister for health and social services under PQ premier Bernard Landry from 2001 to 2003.

Québec’s voters go to polls on September 4 to choose 125 members of Québec’s Assemblée nationale.

Read Suffragio’s prior coverage of the Québécois election here.

Well, it was another exciting debate and the last debate for Charest.

Charest managed to come across as a little less aggressive tonight, but perhaps a little more effective — he could point (and he did!) to Legault’s past experience in government and contrast it with the (unreliable?) positions Legault has taken as the leader of the CAQ.

Legault seemed more effective, perhaps, than he did on Sunday night, but seemed less sure throughout the night.  He’s not as good a debater as Charest.

I wonder if Legault’s strong defense of French and Bill 101 at the end of the debate will leave a bad taste in anglophone voters’ mouths — he’ll need those if the CAQ is to win the election.

All in all, I think Charest did a strong job defending his government and an even stronger job attacking the CAQ’s platform (or the slipperiness of the platform vis-a-vis Legault’s record).

Full live-blog after the jump.

* * * * 

21:00.  Well, here we go.

21:02.  Same topics as last night, in the same order.

21:05.  Legault (pictured above, top) and Charest (pictured above, below) are discussing the fundraising campaign of Jacques Duchesneau in 1998 mayoral race.  Irrelevant.

21:07.  So far, a much more subdued and respectful debate.  It’s not all smiles from Charest, but he seems to have found a way to debate without the aggressive tone from last night, which I think made him seem quite desperate.

21:10.  Discussing Nathalie Normandeau, a former PLQ minister who resigned under corruption cloud.  Legault is getting more aggressive.

21:12.  Our moderator is being a little more aggressive tonight than last night in keeping the debaters on topic.  Some welcome guidance.

21:14.  Charest: don’t look at my sins, look at what we’ve done in recompense!

21:17.  Now they are arguing about what I believe are perfectly legal fundraising techniques.  Charest seems to be grasping here.

21:20.  Charest’s getting more aggressive, if not as aggressive as last night. Legault seems a bit slow, slower than Marois last night for sure.

21:22.  Charest charges that the dropout rate among students was higher when Legault was in office.  Legault’s getting more subdued while Charest’s getting more aggressive.

21:24 Legault is turning the tables on Charest by listing all the things he hasn’t accomplished, calling his government unreliable.

21:26.  Legault is now comparing Québec’s health care system to that in Great Britain! We’re not debating Obamacare anymore…

21:30.  Charest is ridiculing the CAQ’s proposal for one doctor for each family.  He’s ridiculing the PQ government of the mid-1990s of retiring older doctors (Legault was a member of that government).  Charest’s calling Legault simplistic and saying that Québec can’t have a health care system like in the UK because we’re not in the UK.  Charest clearly thinks he’s above Legault as a debater and on the substance.

21:36.  Charest is defending the unions and charging Legault wants to re-open half a million public employee contracts.   What’s interesting is the dexterity with which Charest and Legault can switch between left and right.

21:39.  A note: Hydro-Québec is the publicly-owned company that generates electricity for all of Québec.

21:41.  Again, Charest is defending against layoffs at Hydro-Québec, while Legault says it’s bloated.  Charest is definitely coming from the left on this issue.

21:42. Everyone is unreliable! Non fiable!

21:45. What is Legault’s problem with PEI?

21:46. Charest’s disdain for Legault seems to be a lot more than for Marois:

21:47.  Yawn. Legault thinks Charest’s not done enough on the economy.  Is it time for Charest to call Legault a closet sovereigntist now?

21:50.  It’s a little weak for Legault to distance himself from former PQ government decisions by saying he disagreed.  Charest has very effectively smeared Legault with the policies of the PQ governments of the 1990s in which Legault was a minister.

21:53. Finally. The ‘national question.’

21:54. Charest has now, in two debates, accused both Marois and Legault of playing ‘casino’ on the referendum / sovereignty question.

21:55. Legault is being pretty specific now: he will never support sovereignty.

21:58.  Legault tried to wrap himself in the mantle of Jean Lesage, premier from 1960 to 1966 who led the ‘Quiet Revolution’ and then says Québec needs a nationalist government, not a federalist government at all costs.  It’s a lot like the sweet spot of Mario Dumont and his Action democratique du Québec, the predecessor of the CAQ.  Just nationalist enough not to be federalist, and just federalist enough not to be separatist. Charest is charging hard, though, on the notion that Legault is a closet sovereigntist.

21:59. SNAP! Charest: why are you so negative about Québec? One more snark for the road.

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